Painting a bullseye on hosted CRM market leader Salesforce.com, particularly in the enterprise space, Siebel Systems Inc. announced Tuesday version 6 of its Siebel CRM OnDemand hosted service, with a focus on vertical-specific application support.
Siebel, which has more than 20 "verticalized" versions of its licensed customer relationship management software, is releasing the first four vertical-specific versions of its hosted software in this release, including application services for Wealth Management/Insurance, High Tech, Life Sciences/Medical and Automotive.
Company officials make no secret that the competitive target of this release is Salesforce.com, which is offering customers a hosted application development environment and tool set through its CustomForce service to build their own customizations and vertical functionality, rather than offering prepackaged vertical application services.
"In order to be able to go into this marketplace, you have to have a product offering that effectively maps into the businesses youre selling into," said Bruce Cleveland, general manager of Siebels small business and OnDemand unit. Cleveland described Salesforce.coms approach to vertical markets as a "flawed strategy."
"We have found that when you try to go into large enterprise accounts, customers are not very accepting of having to pay a huge chunk of cash to a consultant to tailor the hosted service to their business," he said, in San Mateo, Calif. "We did [the industry-specific versions] because customers told us this is what we needed to have when we walked in the door."
Salesforce.com customers can build their own application extensions to the service using Salesforce.coms CustomForce tools sforce development environment. Cleveland said such an open environment was "necessary but insufficient," saying application extensions still need to be properly tested and validated, and that Siebel was deflecting the added development costs for vertical-specific functionality away from the customer with its new release.
Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, said his company planned to continue with its CustomForce strategy and has no plans to offer vertical-specific applications.
"The entire concept of vertical [application services] is ridiculous," said Benioff, in San Francisco. "We dont give customers a vertical product, we give them their own product. We dont give ADP a payroll services industry application, we give them ADPforce. We dont give GSK a pharmaceutical application service, we give them GSKforce.
"If Bruce Cleveland says our development environment is insufficient, then we challenge them to an eWEEK [Labs] shootout."
Other new features in Siebel CRM OnDemand 6 include a pre-built workflow feature called the Sales Process Coach, used to instill sales best practices from top reps throughout an organization to guide reps through the sales process.
This version also supports Mail Merge for Microsoft Word, for e-mail marketing campaigns and other customer communications; Lotus Notes synchronization; pre-built reporting and analysis within Microsoft Excel; more customization of data access controls; improvements in managing sales territories; and language support for Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Portuguese.
Nigel Watson, program manager for Cendant Corp.s travel services division, which has 700 users on Siebel CRM OnDemand, said during the Tuesday launch event for version 6 that the business intelligence capabilities were the chief draw for his division.
"Its a full-on business intelligence solution," Watson said. "Its enabled us to analyze the performance of our customers, our sales territories and our account managers."